'Paco' Kennedy praised for work in inner city
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE LATE Francis 'Paco' Kennedy has been hailed for his instrumental role in facilitating dialogue and peaceful interactions between the once-volatile communities of central Kingston.
Two key players who worked with Kennedy and Francis Madden, general manager of GraceKennedy Staff and Community Development Foundation, yesterday saluted the well-known corporate executive for being the driving force behind a plethora of social projects and initiatives that have helped to lay a foundation for peace between communities that were deeply divided along political and other factional lines.
Kennedy was yesterday described as "the father of the inner city" by Rohan 'Skilla' Smith, a member of the Central Kingston Task Team.
Reaping fruits of labour
Former executive chairman of the team, Dunstan Whittingham said: "The legacy that this gentleman has left behind, we are now earning and reaping the fruits of it. We are not saying that it is 100 per cent in 2014, but what it was then ... even the dogs were afraid to cross the street.
Said Whittingham: "Because of what Grace instituted, central Kingston has become an area where crime has been significantly reduced."
He said owing to the work of Kennedy, a culture change had started to permeate the volatile communities where persons of different political persuasions started embracing each other.
The Central Kingston Task Force Team was developed more than 10 years ago in response to a spate of violence between gangs in the Tel Aviv, Southside and Spoilers communities of central Kingston.
Smith told The Gleaner that Kennedy could have suggested to his colleagues to relocate GraceKennedy from downtown Kingston at a time when the vehicle parts of staff members were being stolen and persons were being robbed. However, he noted that the visionary that Kennedy was propelled him to develop social programmes to respond to the needs of the surrounding communities. He said with the work of the Staff and Community Development Doundation, Kennedy was able to impact the lives of the residents and, in the process, changed their outlook.
Whittingham wants Kennedy to be specially honoured with a bust at the entrance of the company he dedicated the better part of his working life to, "not because he is a Kennedy", but because of his outstanding contribution towards the development of downtown Kingston. Meanwhile, Smith suggested that a monument be erected in his memory at GraceKennedy on Harbour Street in downtown Kingston.
Smith described Kennedy as someone who "you can sit down and reason with".
He said: "We have to give thumbs up to Mr Kennedy, we just sorry fi hear that he passed at this time and mi really want to send out condolence to his family and his working peers at GraceKennedy also."
Smith made it clear that the company has never supported criminal dons but has created opportunities for the various communities through work and social outreach activities.
He also spoke glowingly about Madden's and Kennedy's efforts towards assisting students in downtown communities at the company homework centre where staff provides help to youngsters.
Kennedy, the president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, died in Miami, Florida, on Saturday night.
He had undergone a surgical procedure in Jamaica but went to Miami for further treatment.
Since his passing, a flood of tributes has flowed in from the private sector and Government.